The respiratory system provides a way of exchanging nutrients and waste between our blood and the surrounding air. It's primary function is to provide the blood with oxygen from the surrounding atmosphere, and to release the waste product carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Our bodies have also developed other functions that take advantage of this airflow. The air is drawn past thousands of smelling receptors within our nose, which inform us whether food is fit to eat or not. During ancient times these receptors also told us whether or not a mate was receptive and warned us of predators or prey.
Our voice box harnesses the air in order to communicate with others, whether we can see them or not. Through evolution our respiratory passageway has developed many practical features. It comes with a humidifier, heater, filter, self-cleaning mechanism and an emergency-flushing feature. The moist mucosal lining within the passageway from the nose to the branches within the lungs humidifies the incoming air, protecting our blood from dehydration and protecting the respiratory tissues from desiccation (drying out). The distance the air must travel before reaching the blood allows it to be warmed up to body temperature, protecting the blood and thus the rest of the body from heat loss. The mucus within the long passageway filters the air by trapping unwanted debris and thus protecting the tiny spaces within the lungs from blockage, where exchange must take place. The cilia within the passageway constantly cleans the respiratory tract, sending debris to the pharynx to be swallowed and eventually excreted, or to be coughed up and spit from the mouth. Sneezing also acts to powerfully eject unwanted foreign material within the air. All these characteristics are only enough to sustain the vital respiratory system as long as you don't abuse it.
Within minutes, cells of the body experience irreparable damage, if not supplied with oxygen. ATP is a molecule used to provide energy for tons of different biochemical reactions required for your cells to function. It is the main "energy currency" of the body. Using oxygen, the cells can create 36 molecules of ATP for every single molecule of glucose, by a process known as aerobic metabolism. This is the body's primary way for obtaining usable energy and is only possible when supplied with oxygen. Without enough oxygen, the body uses a short-term source for energy called anaerobic metabolism. During this process, only 2 molecules of ATP are produced for every one molecule of glucose. This process is obviously extremely less efficient at producing energy than aerobic metabolism. In addition, anaerobic metabolism produces a waste product called lactic acid, which slows down biochemical reactions, thus limiting the time allowable for anaerobic metabolism to occur. After a short burst of energy supplied by anaerobic metabolism, oxygen is needed to recover, and to convert the lactic acid into a less harmful substance. So, without oxygen your body can only use anaerobic metabolism, resulting in less energy, and can only produce this energy for a short period of time. Within seconds, lactic acid buildup begins to interfere with normal cell function. Within minutes, the resulting lack of energy and the interference with biochemical reactions causes cell damage.
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Taking care of your respiratory system means taking care of your lungs for one thing...
22% of all cancers and 33% of all cancer deaths in men are due to lung cancer.
If you want your lungs to provide you with life instead of death, never smoke. If you're a guy, smoking will increase your chance of lung cancer 23 times. If you're a girl smoking will make you 13 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Lung cancer isn't fun unless you enjoy coughing up blood, chest pains and suffocating slowly. The same symptoms occur with emphysema, which destroys the lungs elasticity requiring the victim to gasp for breath day after day after day. Oh by the way, if you smoke, you're 19 times more likely to develop emphysema.
Secondary smoke is actually more toxic than inhaled smoke because much of it is unfiltered. If your family members smoke while driving you to school, ask them to refrain for the short period of time that you're in the car. If they continue anyway, open the window. When your friends ask if you mind, be honest with them and say yes. If they disregard your request, they don't respect your feelings. If you must, go to the hardware store and buy a filter to place over your nose and mouth. If this doesn't make your point, maybe taping photographs of lung cancer on your chest might do the job. However you choose to deal with live-in smokers, there is no reason you must suffer for their addiction.
If you live under polluted city air, exercising in the early morning or evening will decrease traffic related pollutants.
If you have a cough for over 2 weeks, especially if phlegm is produced, visit a doctor.
Exercise! Cardiovascular exercise is the most effective exercise for maintaining healthy lungs. Swimming is highly recommended to increase lung capacity. Regular exercise trains muscles to use oxygen more efficiently so you don't get so easily winded.
Many researchers believe (due to animal studies) that lack of oxygen plays a major role in causing cells to become malignant or cancerous. So breathe deeply! Breathing deeply also improves the circulation of your lymph and thus helps to cleanse your body of toxins.
You can do breathing exercises to further your lymph circulation, give you more energy and to make you more resistant to cancer. Here's how: 10 deep breaths 3 times a day. For each deep breath, inhale, hold your breath and exhale at a time ratio of 1:4:2. This means you can inhale for 7 seconds, hold it for 28 seconds, and exhale for 14 seconds. Or if this is stressful, try inhaling 4 seconds, holding 16 and exhaling 8. As long as you keep the 1:4:2 ratio your breaths should cleanse your body and provide you with more energy.
Get your annual influenza shot. A nasty bout with the flu can result in lasting lung damage and if it progresses to pneumonia it can even be fatal. In addition to your shots, make sure you get plenty of Vitamin C, you reduce your stress through exercise and relaxation, and you get 8 hours of sleep per night whenever possible, in order to reduce your susceptibility to colds and other respiratory infections.